Monday, April 2, 2012

Foxcatcher Endurance

Fair Hill International is gearing up for the 2012 competition schedule.  First on the docket?  The 2012 Foxcatcher Endurance Ride, to be held on Saturday April 14.  Base camp for the ride is the CCI Stabling field on Gallaher Road, but riders will travel throughout the Fair Hill NRMA acreage for the 50 mile and 25 mile rides.

Ye who only think of FHI as an eventing organization, think again!  FHI has been hosting the Foxcatcher Endurance ride for many years, and in 2005 was the host of the North American Endurance Championship, which drew riders from across North America to compete in a 100 mile test of endurance for both horse and rider.

So what IS this crazy sport of endurance?  I'd try to explain it to you, but's best if we quote directly from the Rider Handbook of the AERC (American Endurance Ride Conference, the governing body of endurance in the United States):

"Reduced to its most basic explanation, an endurance ride is a marathon for horses. It is run over a pre-marked, pre-measured trail. Although awards are based on the fastest riding times in the different divisions, many people compete not to win, but to finish within the maximum time allowed (twelve hours for a fifty miler and twenty-four hours for a hundred miler). There are designated holds along the way, with veterinary examinations required at each one.  In the course of a fifty mile ride there will be from one (required) to as many as four checks (including the post ride check), with roughly twice that number being common for a hundred mile ride.  At the checks, the horse must show that he is able to continue safely with that judgment being made on the basis of specific metabolic and mechanical recovery factors known to be significant (among other things, the pulse must recover to predetermined ride pulse criteria, usually between 60-68. The temperature must be no higher than 103 degrees F., and the horse must be sound at the trot).  The length of time allowed for the vet checks varies with the weather, terrain, and distance covered up to that point; most commonly it ranges from fifteen minutes to one hour.

Anytime within the hour after crossing the finish line, the horse must pass a final inspection, with recovery factors based on the same requirements as those of the vet check. To stand for Best Condition, an honor designed to reward superior care during the competition, the first ten finishers are required to return after the full hour for the BC judging.

Aside from the open rides of at least fifty miles, there are novice rides of twenty-five to thirty-five miles designed for beginner horses and/or riders.  The rules for Limited Distance, as this category is called, are slightly different and somewhat stricter."

This year, Foxcatcher is hosting a 50 mile AERC Endurance ride, a 25 mile AERC Limited Distance ride, and a 10 mile and 25 mile Ride and Tie (which is a WHOLE NUTHER brand of crazy.  The basic gist - one horse, 2 riders.  Riders switch off riding the horse and running the trail.  Horse is tied to a tree in strategic locations for runner to eventually catch up to horse, mount, and ride.  Eventually rider leap-frogs partner, finds place to tie horse, etc etc.  Want to know more?  See  In addition, Foxcatcher is hosting the Arabian Horse Association Region 15 Endurance Championship, as well as a 50 mile FEI* Endurance ride, which is sanctioned by the FEI and is intended to be used as a qualifying ride for horses to move up to the next level in FEI competition.  Much the same as CCI one, two, and three star events, but in endurance the level of difficulty increases by the number of miles ridden.

Have we peaked your interest?  Want to know more?  The very best way to learn is to COME.  The endurance community is very friendly, and the vets and volunteers would be delighted to explain what's going on so long as the line of horses waiting to see the vet isn't ridiculously long.  Vet-in for the ride is Friday afternoon, April 13th.  The 25 and 50 mile rides both start at 7AM on Saturday April 14th.  The 25 mile riders have to be finished by 1PM on Saturday (but expect the first finishers around 10AM).  The 50 mile riders have to be finished by 7PM (but expect the first finishers around 1PM).

Want to learn even more?  Volunteer!  Can you take a pulse?  Can you read a clock?  Can you scribe for a vet?  We're always looking for fresh blood, so to speak.  If you're interested, please see our volunteer page.

Finally, if you're riding around Fair Hill on Saturday April 14 and see a horse tied to a tree, that has a number written on its butt in crayon, PLEASE don't untie it!  The runner for that Ride and Tie team will be so disappointed if he or she has to run all the way home!

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